The commanders of the US and Japanese navies met on Wednesday to discuss the 50th anniversary of their security alliance and its importance to each nation and regional security.
US Chief of Naval Operations Gary Roughead and Adm. Keiji Akahoshi, chief of staff of Japan's navy, met and had lunch at Pearl Harbor. They later spoke at a symposium on the alliance attended by junior officers from both countries.
Roughead said the half-century-old alliance has provided for the security, stability and safety for the Asia-Pacific region. "This extraordinary milestone provides an opportunity to pass on the responsibility of a legacy to the leaders who are now stepping on to the stage," Roughead told reporters before the symposium. Akahoshi said exchanging opinions should enable officers to strengthen their alliance.
"The cooperation between the US navy and the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force over the past 50 years has supported the US-Japan alliance," Akahoshi said. "It is our duty to pass on this past, the present, as well what the future should be." The meeting comes amid uncertainty over the future of a US Marine air base on Okinawa in southern Japan.
The previous Japanese prime minister resigned earlier this month after he failed to fulfill a campaign pledge to have the Futenma air base moved out of Okinawa, a densely populated island where residents have long complained about a heavy US military presence. The new prime minister, Naoto Kan, has promised to uphold a US-Japan agreement to move the base from Futenma to another spot within Okinawa, but he must do so in the face of fierce local opposition.
Roughead said he and Akahoshi have been planning the meeting for months and Wednesday's meeting was unrelated to issues surrounding Futenma. Akahoshi said it had no connection to politics.